Sermon delivered July 19, 1997

by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Salvation by Gift Certificate

It's been a nice summer, hasn't it? Gardening has been a little tough this summer. Some people have had trouble getting their green beans out of the ground and raising squash. It's been a little difficult this year. It's been as hard to raise a garden this year as it has for me to raise hair. It seems the weather is either too wet or too hot and dry. Well, I'm still thankful to live in Tennessee. How would you like to live in Africa or some place! I am so thankful to live here in Tennessee. It always been hard to grow food.

Back about 2300 years ago the folk who lived in Alexandria in Northern Africa could not grow enough food. They were totally dependant on Eastern Mediterranean lands (Phoenicia) for their grain, their wheat. They called it "corn" in those days. They would die without outside supplies. Their life totally depended on the arrival of the food. About a certain time of the year when their supplies began to run out they would be hoping that the ships would appear over the horizon bringing the great supplies of wheat that had been grown. People would keep a loo-out. They didn't have very good communications and so they would just watch for the ships.

When they saw those great grain ships appearing over the horizon they were just thrilled. There food was coming! What a great day that was! As the heavily laden ships came closer the good news spread quickly that food was coming. The Greek-speaking folk living in Alexadria coined a special word just for that event; to announce the good news that the grain ships had arrived in port. You can read this word in your New Testament. It's in the book of Mark, chapter sixteen, you can find this word, this special word announcing the good news that the grain had arrived, that it was coming, it was on the way.

Here it is in Mark 16:15(NIV)- "And He said unto them 'Go into all the world and preach the GOOD NEWS to all creation.'" What is the "good news"? Well, the good new to us is that Jesus Christ has come, that He is our Savior. Of course the word we're defining here is "the gospel", evangelion in the Greek. Basically that means good, merry, glad, and joyful tidings, that makes a mans heart glad. The gospel is the good news that Jesus has come. He has brought life for a dying race. Without Jesus coming we were all doomed.

Now over here in Romans, I want to read a couple verses about the gospel. Paul, in Romans 1, the apostle Paul makes a statement about the gospel. He adds to it. It's not only the good news that Jesus has come and provided salvation but hen says something in addition. Romans 1:16(NIV) "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes." So the gospel is not only the good news that we are saved, the gospel is also the good news that God provides power to the Christian. The power of God for everyone who believes.

Romans 1:17(NIV)- For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, .... the righteous will live by faith," he concludes in that verse.

Seventh day Adventists believe in the Gospel. On many of our church signs and our business cards we have three angels pictured. The three angels messages of Revelation 14 are vital to us as a people. The very heart of those messages is the everlasting gospel which will be proclaimed to every nation and kindred and tongue and people Rev. 14:6. When that happens then Jesus will come... Matthew 24:14.

Now, there's a lot of gobbledy-gook about how we are saved and what the gospel really is. Before we can preach the gospel we must know in our hearts what the gospel is. If I asked ten people what the gospel is, I would probably get ten definitions. What is the gospel?

    Here are two views about how we are saved:
  1. We are saved totally by believing in Jesus. Works do not have anything to do with our salvation. Therefore, we can live however we want to live because works has nothing to do with salvation. Some people call this the "New Theology", although it is thousands of years old. (Now you may not agree with this sermon: this is my viewpoint on how we are saved.)
  2. Some people believe that we are saved by faith plus personal works. And Jesus saves us, that's true, but we must manifest good works and we must grow more and more like Jesus toward perfection of our soul. And some people call that "legalism".

Now I believe there's a third way. And I believe that is brought by the gospel. Number 3. is: Jesus saves us. We're saved totally by believing in Him. He totally provided righteousness for us, AND He provides the power to live the Christian life. We are not saved by our works: we're saved by His works, but He empowers us to live the Christian life.

The first of these three view I would call cheap grace. The second I would call legalism. There is a third view, I believe, which is a balanced view where we ought to be today, and this view is what we want to focus on today.

Now I want to define the "Gospel" for you. What is the GOOD NEWS? What is the GOSPEL? I believe we are saved by GIFT CERTIFICATE! That's how we're saved! You are not saved by going down and securing salvation yourself. It is not a "do-it-yourself" thing. Salvation is provided by somebody else that has gone down to the store and totally paid for your salvation long ago. So I can go down there to the store and trade my gift certificate for Eternal life.

We all want something for nothing. We shop for juicy bargains. We mail in the coupon for free drawings. Folks, people spend a fortune trying to win the lottery. Shame on them!

Only twice does the word WIN appear in the Bible. PHILIPPIANS 3:8(KJV) Paul speaks of gaining - or winning Christ. "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. I have suffered the loss of all things...that I may WIN Christ."

How do we get Christ? By winning it, not by purchasing it. It is a gift. Salvation is gained by winning it, not by our efforts. But because we have chosen Him. If you choose Jesus you are an instant winner. If you choose the world you are a big looser. Salvation is free! But salvation is not a cheap commodity! Jesus achieved my eternal life through sweat, tears and blood. What a high price! Today, Jesus simply gives it away to His friends who then possess perfect righteousness through their faith in Jesus Christ.

Now, on the cross Jesus said a very important statement: three little words. He said, "It is Finished!" (John 19:30) What was finished? Well, the word Jesus used is a Greek word ... Tetelestai, which in our version of the Scripture is translated, "It is finished." Archaeologists have repeatedly found its Latin equivalent, consummatum est, scrawled across ancient tax receipts, indicating it also meant "paid in full". What Jesus was saying on the cross was, "This debt is now paid in full. I completely paid the price." Sin's account was settled on the cross. Our debt and guilt were wiped out! You can't add to it. All we can do is accept it.

So I obtain salvation by gift certificate that has been paid in full. I can't purchase eternal life by a whole life full of good works. But I live a life of good works in response to His gift. Jesus gives me eternal life. But, the good news is that it does not stop with the gift certificate. When I take my salvation home Jesus comes home with me to help me apply my gift and to use my gift in my life. And that is very much UNlike cheap grace.

Years ago I purchased a gizmo for my small children. It came in a box and said "some assembly required"! It was some assembly alright! After an hour or so and a long struggle with plastic parts and instructions written by some Japanese person who had probably had a one hour correspondence class in the English language, the thing finally worked!

The truth is that Jesus not only provides our salvation, but Jesus comes with the gift and helps us assemble the gift and use gift as the Christian life. Jesus creates within our new heart a hatred for sin and a deep love for good things.

The truth is that we are saved totally by Jesus' blood, not by our own blood. And that same blood also has the power to enable us to live a changed life. That doesn't mean that we won't make any mistakes. We may make mistakes but that same blood also has the ability to blot out our sins and give us complete forgiveness.

Blood is mentioned over 300 times in the Bible. It lies at the very heart of the Gospel, for it is through "the blood of his cross" that Jesus reconciled us to God. (See Colossians 1:20-23).

Some years ago a terrible railroad accident occurred, killing many people. A commuter train had stalled on the tracks just a few minutes before a fast freight was due to arrive. A conductor was quickly sent to flag down the approaching "flier." Being assured that all was well, the passengers relaxed.

Suddenly, however, the speeding freight came bearing down upon them. The crash left a ghastly scene of horror. The engineer of the speeding freight train, escaped death by jumping from the cab. He was called into court to explain why he hadn't stopped. "I saw a man waving a flag," he said, "but it was yellow, so I thought he just wanted me to slow down."

When the flag was examined, the mystery was explained. It had been red, but because of long exposure to the sun and weather it had become a dirty yellow. Just think of the lives eternally wrecked by the 'yellow gospels' we are hearing today -- the bloodless theories of the gospel that send their hearers to their doom instead of stopping them on their downward slide! Cheap grace will lead to certain doom. Legalism or perfectionism will not save. I've never met anybody that is totally perfect. I don't think any of us could ever equal what Jesus did for us.

Dear friend, Jesus Christ can give you His righteousness and you can stand truly perfect right now. Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross can redeem your soul (see Romans 5:8,9). Don't be deceived by an anemic "yellow gospel" of human works that is powerless to save you from everlasting destruction.

The wonderful truth is that we are truly totally saved by Jesus. Jesus the Son of God is our Saviour. Jesus Himself will set us free. Jesus said in John 8:32 (KJV) "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." This is an interesting statement that many Christians do not apply this text correctly. What is it that we have to know? The doctrines? What is the truth?

Well, Jesus explains this in the next verses: John 8:36 "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." Notice what sets us free... The Truth in verse 32: The Son of God in verse 36. And I want to tell you that Jesus is the same today.

In John 14:6, "Jesus answered, 'I am the Way, the Truth, life...'" It is knowing Jesus that totally sets us free. Jesus paid for Salvation with His perfect life. It is not the belief in certain doctrines. We do not have to earn heaven. Eternal life is a gift.

We are saved by Jesus. Now, the doctrines are important, and that's where people call us a sect, they have almost stopped calling us a cult. But they still call us a sect: they can't understand how we can believe that we are totally saved by Jesus and yet it is important to keep the Sabbath. And I will tell you this, I am married to a wonderful woman and I do not help her do the dishes because of some law, I do that because I want to, I want to do something to make her happy, I keep the Sabbath because I want to do what makes God happy. It's a response to Him. So we're saved by gift certificate. Eternal life is given by a gift.

How do you get the gift? You have to know the Giver. Let me ask you a question-- Have you ever received a major gift in your whole life from a complete stranger? That has never happened to me. We almost always receive gifts from people that we know. Our friend Jesus, because we know Him, wants to give us His Eternal life.

The Gospel is just one wonderful loving Friend, Jesus, standing with outstretched arms wanting to share His eternal life with you. I believe the only way anyone will ever be lost is if that person willfully and consistently rejects Jesus and reject His free gift of Eternal Life. Otherwise, we're going to be saved.

Legalism is like a body without a soul. It is a corpse. Cheap Grace is like a soul without a body. It is a ghost. Neither one of them work. Only Jesus could live the perfect life in both body and soul. He became a Saviour. Jesus, lived the perfect life and paid a big price for complete salvation for each of us. Then Jesus gives this expensive rescue to us as a free gift if we love Him.

Where do you pick up your gift certificates? John 3:36- "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life!..." You get it from Jesus.

Opening Hymn- 371  Lift Him Up
Scripture Reading- Romans 5:1-5

Closing Hymn- 337  Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it, redeemed by the blood
of the Lamb.  Redeemed through His infinite mercy, His child forever I
am!



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